Firefighter’s lifesaving heroics on board Ryanair flight

Fire service stock photo
Fire service stock photo

A retained firefighter from Burwash helped save the life of a woman who was taken gravely ill on a plane.

Daniel, who has chosen not to reveal his surname, was heading back from a family holiday in southern Portugal on Saturday (September 1) when the drama unfolded on the Ryanair flight.

A fellow passenger, a 72-year-old woman, had fallen ill and her family were unable to get a reaction from her.

Daniel said: “She was gripping the seat tight and looking straight up at the ceiling.

“I stepped up and heard this lady say ‘I can’t find a pulse, we need to get her out’, as in we need to get her out of her seat and horizontal.

“I grabbed her with my arms around her chest and took her out of her chair and into the aisle and took her to the back of the plane.”

The woman who had taken the pensioner’s pulse, a medical registrar called Sue, told Daniel the patient’s Glasgow Coma Score was just three. He explained: “This means she was not responsive in any way, she had no pulse, was not communicating and there was no other response from her. She was as good as not with us.”

With the help of a second doctor, Daniel and Sue administered oxygen, carried out CPR and used a defibrillator before the woman finally came back round.

In the 40 minutes before the plane landed in Luton, the woman’s condition greatly improved. She was taken to hospital shortly after the plane landed.

It is believed the woman had suffered a small bleed on the brain, which the doctor said could be an indicator of a future, more serious problem. Daniel said: “It could have saved her life.”

Daniel was a special constable with Kent Police for six years before joining East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service three years ago at the age of 40.

Although he has seen many serious incidents over the years, it is the first time Daniel’s lifesaving skills have been called upon at 32,000 feet.

He said: “There’s a moment after any incident with a ‘positive outcome’ as a firefighter where you do just pause and think ‘I’m glad that went as well as it did’.

“I cannot pretend I did not climb into bed that night and think how different it could have been if the doctors were not on that flight.”

It was a particularly poignant incident for Daniel, who lost his best friend in a military plane crash in Afghanistan almost 12 years to the day of the Ryanair incident.

Dawn Whittaker, Chief Fire Officer of ESFRS, said: “I am immensely proud of all our staff who on a daily basis utilise their training and ability to save lives and contribute to community safety, however it’s even more pleasing to hear when they use their skills, off duty, unprompted, to help save a life. Last year, one of our firefighters dived into a pool on holiday and saved a young girl from drowning and this weekend I heard of Daniel’s contribution on his return from holiday to help save a life when someone was taken very ill on the flight, utilising the medical training he has had in East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service.

“I am sure like us, his family are all very proud of him...and I know how grateful the family he helped will be too. I also have every confidence that his colleagues at Burwash will be thinking up a new nickname as we speak, as they are a great bunch of on-call firefighters, with a real team and community spirit.”